1 in 4 women in medical training experiences sexual harassment, but few report it

Credit: CDC.

Sexual harassment is quite prevalent among residents and can oftentimes be traced back to patients and their families.

In a study from the University of Michigan, scientists found that one in four women among internal medicine residents experiences sexual harassment, but far fewer go on to report it.

The researchers conducted a multiple-choice survey that asked internal medicine residents if they had ever experienced sexual harassment.

The survey questions revolved around whether residents experienced specific types of sexual harassment, as well as their knowledge of how to report it and to whom, and whether they were satisfied with the results of sharing this information.

Ultimately, the team asked the internal medicine residents about the types of harassment they experienced, whether it be gender-based, unwanted sexual attention, and/or sexual coercion.

They also asked questions about the reporting process – were they familiar with it, for example, did they know who to go to when they decided to report it, and were they tapping into their residency leadership team when disclosing their experiences?

The team also assessed their levels of satisfaction with the outcomes after they reported this information.

Unfortunately, they found that one in four women experienced sexual harassment when compared to just one in 31 men.

They also found that the most common form of harassment was gender-based.

Overwhelmingly, the majority of residents disclosed that they understood the process of reporting sexual harassment, yet few actually did it. And even fewer reported the harassment to their residency leadership team.

In addition, the team showed that less than half of the residents who responded to the survey were “satisfied with the outcome” after reporting sexual harassment.

The findings showed that medical trainees know how to report these events, but they simply aren’t doing it because of environmental (and other) factors.

The team hopes that this research can better inform methods of intervention for sexual harassment in medical environments in the future.

The study was conducted by Elizabeth Viglianti et al and published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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